Chickens, Again . . . Plus Ducks!

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When you can’t dine out, being able to dine in becomes important again.

Face-diapering and other idiocies (and tyrannies) have made it unpleasant to dine out; who wants to eat a meal looking across a plexiglass partition at a leper – to whom you look just the same? It makes one pine for the days at the Chinese buffet when you risked someone sneezing on the General Tso’s chicken . . . but not a Hut! Hut! Hutting! by sickness psychotics.

Soon, we may be pining for food of any kind. And diapering up may not get you any – at the buffet or the grocery store.

If – as Burt Reynold’s character in the movie, Deliverance had it – the system does fail, what are you going to do about food?

I got chickens – not the rotisserie kind. The renewable kind. Also the kind that doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Ducks, too. The Pekin kind . . . not the Peking kind.

I’ve had birds before. When I was married and mostly for fun. They are enjoyable to have around – it’s fun to let them free range in the yard and the fresh eggs can’t be beat, for taste or nutrition (look into this, if you are worried about cholesterol; eggs from free-range birds are very healthy whereas store bought eggs from caged and corn-fed hens aren’t).

But I got them again because it’s a hedge against the absence of eggs – and more – in stores. And against the presence of violence where the stores are. Self-sufficiency is more than just a virtue.

It might save your life.

Chickens (more on ducks in a minute) aren’t hard to keep and five or six of them will provide you with more eggs than you can eat – if it’s just you – and enough to keep your family eating – if your family isn’t the Brady Bunch. A good laying hen will generally deliver 1-2 eggs a day or more.

Times five or six and you’re not going hungry.

Eggs are a super food. They are self-contained protein and vitamin modules that do not even require refrigeration – unlike store-bought eggs, which do. The reason for this is that store-bought eggs are washed by decree of Uncle. Which washes away something called the bloom – which is a coating applied by the hen as she lays the egg that keeps it fresh (and viable, if fertilized).

The eggs you buy at the store have had their bloom washed away and so will go bad soon if not kept cold, which can be difficult to maintain if there’s no power. But there are no worries if you get your eggs at the coop. They will stay fresh without cold.

That they are also delicious – and nutritious – is the perk.

Even more so that you don’t have to buy them. Or go farther than your back yard to get them.

And if you have a rooster to go with your hens, you will have renewable layers.  Eat some eggs, let some hatch – and grow into new birds. You can also eat some of the birds, of course  – though I don’t do that; I get too attached to my avian friends to put them on the table.

Chickens are cheap to get – about $3 per chick, if you start that way and maybe twice that for an already grown hen (check Craigs and other classifieds that advertise farm-related stuff). You can build – or buy – the necessary coopage, which also doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive – just functional. The idea being to provide them shelter from predators and a place to lay and sleep.

Keeping five or six birds does not require a farm – or even acreage. Provided you haven’t got an HOA, you can keep them in the back yard of a suburban home. Hens are generally quiet and friendly; most normal people like seeing them and won’t object. And if the system does fail, who cares if they do?

You’ll be eating. They won’t be.

Speaking of eating. During the summer months, you can let your chickens roam and eat what chickens eat naturally, such as bugs/worms and grass and so on. They eat largely free – and healthy, for them and for you. They are also excellent food disposal systems – of the leftover food you might otherwise throw away. They’ll eat it – and convert it into new food.

For you.

You will want to get some feed (and grit) to supplement them in summer and to have in winter, when the bugs are gone and grass is less. A 100 pound bag costs about $27 and will support 5-6 birds for a month or more.

As for the ducks . . .

I got them for the variety. Their eggs are larger and richer. Not everyone likes the taste, though – me included. But ducks can be amiable backyard buddies and some of them are decent guard birds, too. They will raise the alarm if someone – or some thing –  violates your landspace.

Geese, apparently, are even better. A large grey goose is an intimidating bird.

In any event, a feathered hedge against what might be headed our way. It might be something you want to consider, too. While you can still easily get chicks, supplies to build the coop and so on.

Tomorrow, that might not be possible – and then it’ll be too late.

. . .

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20 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Eric, really enjoyed reading of your chicken experience!
    A few years ago my wife & I sold our suburban home and bought a house on 20 acres in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farmland & pasture. Can’t see the house from the road, and my local gun range is my backyard. Chickens, goats, guineas (yes, you can eat the eggs if you can find them), and the latest addition to our yard menagerie, a pig. Chickens are great (for eggs and for entertainment) but they make it difficult to have a garden since they will fly over fences and scratch around for the seeds & seedlings.
    I now have to drive an hour each way to work, but the freedom this place provides is priceless and well worth any inconvenience. We are able simply to opt out of the current craziness.

    • Many years ago(30+), I had a drive from the farm to work. It was worth it more than most people can imagine. Coming home to the farm, doing anything I wanted, shooting any time I liked(or didn’t, coyotes, mountain lions, etc.) I built my own underground electrical supply, drilled a well and helped the power company by dragging their trucks around in the shinery sand with my 8 wheel drive tractor.

      I also told the Koch bros. to go to hell and they’d never get their pipeline across my land. Damn, that was satisfying. I used to go hang out with my old side by side 12 gauge and do the old pissed off farmer thing like you’d see on the movies. In reality I had a selective fire rifle lying across the seat.

      I guess I should put purple paint on my fences but it wouldn’t help from my worst enemies, the LEO’s of various agencies.

  2. If you want an excellent “alarm system”, guineas cannot be beat. I can’t tell you if people eat the eggs though. Another thing to think about, if you have enough land with a natural spring on it, that could be made into a small pond to stock trout with.

    • Allen, they’re really pretty birds and their eggs are good. I like their guard dog characteristics. I have never had any because of dogs. And that’s not a deal killer. I’ve had dogs that killed fowl and some that didn’t. I wish I had some now to control grasshoppers. You can’t walk the drive without being beaten by grasshoppers right now. They’re bad enough to need glasses when just walking around. It’s one of “those years”. They picked a bad year for us. We really needed to grow a garden but I finally gave up.

      Over 2 months ago having 109 and 104 temperature days in the same week it was easy to see it was goinng to be a bitch of a year heat wise. Wish high temps killed grasshoppers.

    • Hi Allen,

      Yup!

      My neighbors have guineas, so I basically do. I’m working – in my head – on the pond. I have a friend with a backhoe. I just need for my shoulder to mend and for some time to manifest…

      • eric, the longer you go the worse that shoulder will get. Take it from the voice of experience. At least buy a TENS unit that will stimulate blood flow to it. I’ve used on for 30 years(the same one). It even builds your muscles which helps a hurt joint as much as anything. Make sure you get one with Pulse Frequency and Pulse Width and 3 modes for how it operates as in gradually building to a peak and then instantly stop with a wait for several seconds(This is the best for me), continuous and pulse. They all have intensity but that’s not the long and short of it. The mode that starts and builds to a peak does me the greatest good. It amazing to watch your should raise up and then fall is part of the timing and intensity both. The timer is part of this too. I like a pulse width of about 100 and a pulse frequency of 75. Either way, you’ll find out what works best for you.

        I’ve worn it for all night for months and not only repair and relieve my shoulder but build muscle. You see those things that are made to give you a six pack. They really work although I won’t burn money for one(and probably should)and they are simply a TENS unit. $200 for a TENS unit gets you the really good ones and you’ll forget about the money the first time you use it. After a few weeks you’ll wonder why you didn’t have one your entire life.

  3. Excellent, Eric!

    I’ve been meaning to build a new chicken tractor and get chickens again, too. A few chickens and a milk goat…and a small garden, and you are self-sufficient as far as food goes!

    And ducks! I love watching ducks. I’ve refrained from getting any though, because between the varmints and the pets, I don’t think they’d last long……

    Very glad to hear that you’re back in the bird game again, Eric! It IS nice just having them around. They are living creatures- life! They are a part of the process that sustains us and nature itself- in a world in which most people now live in cities and suburbs which can not sustain any life, but which are dependent upon far-away to support lives within them. Humans are being removed from the circle of life and from nature by living in these places which can only support scavengers, like rats and mice.

    It just feels good to live in and be a part of the environment which was created to sustain life- to be a particpant in that which sustains us-directly, naturally, with no USDA or corporate perversion or control. ….and it’s just plain enjoyable!

    • Nunz, back when my surviving(at the time)uncle lost his wife, they had scads of chickens, ducks and geese. He showed up one day and wanted to give them to me. I had to decline. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have chickens and ducks and geese but we wouldn’t be able to stir the coyotes and bobcats with a stick if we had them.

      Hell, my neighbor 3/4 mile away bought chickens and ducks a few years ago. He lost every damned one of them and when he got down to 2 chickens, he tied them in a trap I loaned him and the bobcat that was killing everything wouldn’t touch them.

      Meanwhile, we lost 3 cats a night for the ones that wouldn’t come in. My favorite girl kitty disappeared one night about a week before Xmas along with a couple others. Finally a friend driving down the dirt road we used to get to pavement, sent me a pic of the biggest damned bobcat I’ve seen lying in the back of his pickup. She was huge and had 3 huge “kittens” that were by far not small. The cat disappearances really fell off but the 2 chickens that were left were gone soon enough. He needed a chicken tractor or house and finally realized I was right about it.

      I’d sure like to have one of those $5,000 nigh/day infrared scopes but they’re beyond my means. I would thin the coyotes out.

      When CJ was about a year old, he raised hell to get outside one afternoon so I let him out and just as I did, I saw a mountain lion but he was already gone and so was the cat. I just prayed he didn’t catch it. We’ve had 250 lb cougars around here and they’re intimidating to say the least.

      3 years ago CJ raised hell about something on the other side of the tank and when I got our there, he tore off. I had my trusty model 70 in .243, luckily, and next thing I know he’s hauling ass trying to look through the back of his head. There were two huge red wolf/coyote crosses(you really can’t tell they have any coyote in them now and I think they’re returning to full blood red wolves. I shot at one but the brush was too thick to get a hit, It did turn them, which I was thankful for. The year before I saw a grey wolf in the creek one evening. West Texas is not where grey wolves are supposed to be but the flora and fauna have changed so much since I was a kid it’s barely recognizable. When my grandparents moved here, it was rolling plains covered in wild grass with the occasional bunch of cottonwood trees where there were springs. Now, it’s just mesquite and other invaders including post oak and scrub oak. If you want a fiend of anything, you’d better be prepared to keep it plowed.

      • Ha, Eight- a few years ago, I was bush hogging the little meadow in my woods, and as I was driving out of the meadow, I see this panther just sauntering away. I had seen him once prior to that- he liked to hang out in the furthest corner of the meadow by a big log from a downed tree. I loved the way he nonchalantly sauntered away- as opposed to running- It was like the noise bothered him, so he just decided to leave.

        Last year, I was weed-eating a little patch across the street in front of my neighbor’s where my mailbosx is, and this truck stops. I thought the guy wanted directions or something, I killed the weed-eater and took my earmuffs off. By that time, the guy was just pointing behind me; he rolls down the window and says “Look. There’s a coyote right there”. I turn around and look, and there’s a coyote sitting by neighbor’s electric pole in his front field, about 100′ from me- just taking a break and watching me weed-eat.

        I finished up there and went back to my side and kept weed-eating along my front fence, and the coyote just stayed there watching. I finish up and walk up to my mother’s place. She has a window which has a good view of my neighbor’s- so I tell her to look…..and there’s the coyote, still there. Next time we looked, a few minutes later, he was gone.

        I just had to tell the relatives back east…..I knew they’d get a kick out of having a coyote audience!

        Hmmm…havenn’t seen any turtles in many years. Used to often see big’uns after a rain.

        T’other day, I see one of the outside cats sitting in my front yard looking at something. I walk over to see…it was a big snake- a king snake, I think. The cat was just nonchalantly sitting right next to it- seemed to be amused by it. I picked it up with a mop handle and relocated it to the pasture- that baby was a good 5′. By the time we got to where I wanted to release him, he was just hanging off of the mop handle by his “tail”- but he didn’t drop off….seemed to be enjoying the walk!

  4. Chickens can be great for insect and weed control by using a “chicken tractor that can be moved around the yard. With controlled access they will even “de-bug” the garden. Let them dig through the compost pile. You’ll end up with better compost. If you do graze them in your yard, stop using herbicides and pesticides or you’ll poison them (and then yourself).
    BTW, shouldn’t be using said herbicides and pesticides unless you actually intend to convert your soil into mere dirt.

    • We had no compost pile when we had chickens. The chickens ate everything up as fast as we dumped it out there. Then the coyotes, hawks, and bobcats cleaned out most of our chickens, and we gave the remaining few to a neighbor and we buy eggs from her when she has them. They have more dogs but even then they lose chickens. We were buying so much chicken feed that they weren’t really paying off anyway. It was okay back when we free ranged them but we were losing too many so we started keeping them in a 6′ high fence. The bobcats and hawks still got in there.

      The “wild” turkeys were keeping our kitchen waste all cleaned up and then they all went off wherever they go to lay eggs and have chicks. I expect they will be back in a while.

      • Hi Anon,

        I had a similar – though not as bad – problem. With weasels, I think. They would dig under the fence to get at the chickens. This time, I don’t think they will. I redid the entire fence (fairly heavy gauge metal) burying about four inches of it in the ground and in concrete. Basically, I dug a trough in between each fence post, installed fencing, then poured a bead of concrete along the entire perimeter. A six inch deep pad is underneath the swing-door entrance to the yard with maybe an inch or so of air gap. Not much will be able to crawl under that!

        It’s possible some critter or other will be able to crawl up and over – but I think (hope) I have thwarted the majority. Certainly dogs/coyotes//foxes.

        There is also the airborne threat – from hawks. I am considering a net above for that. The coop building itself is impregnable to everything short of a bear or a human. Once they’re inside and locked up, they’re safe.

        I plan to do a second installment and video. Still working on a few small things!

        • eric, I suggest at least some solid roof over a roost area. You might find some used hide that would work well and then use some rabbit fence or similar for the rest of the top and keep the bobcats out. If we don’t have something to keep coyotes, coons and badgers from digging under they’ll even ruin a garden not to mention live animals they can kill. When it gets really hot you can find some old camo netting(Army surplus)to throw over the top that’s not solid and give the old girls a break from the heat.

          Unfortunately for us, we are just covered up with coyotes and the chickens draw so many other varmints like bobcats and mountain lions it just isn’t worth it since a bobcat’s favorite food is a house cat.

          This morning I went took the cat food to the breezeway and the top was off a 40 gallon rubbermaid trash can we keep dog food in. I could keep it in a fridge that recently gave up along with my tools I don’t want to be exposed to moisture but I may just get a galvanized trash can for it. I don’t think a coon can get the top off one of those(famous last words but it’s never been a problem before).

          Even though we can keep varmints from getting chickens at night it’s not worth it for the cats we lose. Yep, I do like fresh eggs but like our cats more and some just won’t come in the house. I don’t blame them. I only have half a dozen cats I can trust in my bedroom. Wed. morning I was lying in late, past 7 am and my head got hot and wet real fast. I reached up and grabbed a cat that doesn’t get in there often and flung it on the floor. Then I ran everybody out, showered off and started washing bedclothes along with my pillow.

          It was so nice that night to get in a bed with sun dried everything on it and the next morning I got up and let the door open to the room, opened the front door to let the exodus of inside/outside cats trade places, grabbed a glass of tea that was already fixed and went back to lie down for a while. Got in the bed where I normally lay and it was soaked with cat piss. I was ready to kill but didn’t know who did it. I do know the ones who didn’t do it. So I got to wash bedclothes again that day, dry the mattress(just a bit damp) and try clean bedclothes once more. I haven’t been letting anybody including CJ in the room during the day. He’s got other places to lie down but I only have one place I want to sleep.

          I like to use a solid room for chickens to roost at night when it’s cold and leave the door open if the weather isn’t bad so they can get some sun and do some scratching and eating. I would build a tractor and put it at the front half a mile away but the neighbor nearly a mile away had one and the cats just moved from his place to ours and we lost some of our favorite cats. I’d send a pic of this huge female bobcat but something’s agly with the computer and I can’t get a pic to send for the life of me.

          It really needs to be replaced but we don’t want to spend big bucks for a Linux system computer and we won’t buy a Mac or MS. I think I posted a link here showing where they had both downloaded an app onto Android and iPhones that’s a covid tracker or if you prefer, a communist spying device so they can tell if they need to come get you by telling if your phone got near the phone of someone who tested positive. I won’t be wearing my phone again. It will stay in the pickup or in the house where no other phone will ever be near it. I’m trying to avoid a shoot-out as best I can although I have no doubt they’ll finally push it to the point it won’t be avoidable. We don’t have anyone in govt. to actually represent us so we’re living in a fancy gulag whether people want to admit it or not.

        • The other problem was staying up until 10pm or later in the summer to shut up the coop door after the chickens finally go in to roost. And then they are crowing and squawking to get out by 4am in the morning.

  5. The slaughtering of chickens was once a once a year chore, the dreaded drudgery that is nonstop.

    Have a machete, trap the chicken’s head in between two nails nailed in a tree stump. A chopping block that can handle hundreds of chickens and hardly show any wear, chop off the heads of chickens one after another, done it been there. lol

    You throw the newly deceased chicken sans head and let the thing flop around to bleed out the veins and arteries. Next, you dunk the chicken into scalding water for a few seconds, then over to the plucker, then singe the hide, then gut the chicken to remove the entrails. Cool them in a large tub of cold water, package, freeze.

    You read the entrails for the next days and years predictions.

    Hard to eat chicken at the end of a day of chicken butchering, killing a hundred of them, then plucking them for a few hours does some wear and tear on your poor wicked soul. har

    I’ll buy chicken at the store until I can’t anymore. Fish too. Going fishing is expensive and you might not catch any. There is always some cod from Iceland at the grocery store. Crocodile tears for the luckless chickens. har

    There are three farms with cattle within one mile of the farm. I won’t starve. Chicken eggs from free range chickens are the eggs to eat.

    • Charles, you’re certainly correct. Texas water, regarless of where you live, is full of glyphosate. I notice Bayer is going to try to remedy the cancer lawsuits of Roundup with $9B payout. It’s beyond that so the courts and EPA are going to have to come to their aid, sorry MF’s all of them are.

  6. Not to mention they eat BUGS. In fact, if one is willing to put up with the wildness of guinea fowl, their favorite food is ticks. The myth that eggs are high in cholesterol was propagated during the LBJ administration because, being the psychopath he was, he simply decided eggs were too expensive and directed the FDA to proclaim so. Eggs are not significantly higher in cholesterol than any land animal meat product.

    When I was a child (50 years ago) and spent a great deal of my time in the woods, getting a tick was uncommon. Now one may get a number of them in a very short time. I surmise the reason is the severe decline in upland bird population caused by the elimination of habitat by industrial farming.

    • “Being the psychopath he was, [LBJ] simply decided eggs were too expensive and directed the FDA to proclaim so.”

      And that was on a good day.

      Johnson (like Donald Trump today) bullied the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates as low as possible. When the Fed made a show of resistance, Johnson summoned Fed chair William McChesney Martin to his Texas ranch and physically shoved him around his living room, yelling in his face, “Boys are dying in Vietnam, and Bill Martin doesn’t care.” (A perfect example of projection, as LBJ didn’t care either, and the war was HIS policy.)

      Expect a big boost in mafia-style gov after the November election. Things are getting ugly. Some old-fashioned muscle — knocking people against walls to thump some sense into ’em — looks like a growth industry. Plenty of unemployed AGWs are available to serve as “contractors.”

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